Forthcoming Services at St.Matthew's

 Date  

 Service  

 Time

Sun 7th Feb All-age Communion* 11.00am
Wed 10th Feb Ash Wednesday Joint service of Holy Communion for both parishes at St John The Baptist, Smalley. 7.30pm
Sun 14th Feb Common Worship Communion* 11.00am
Sun 21st Feb Baptism* 11.00am
Sun 28th Feb Common worship Communion* 11.00am
Sun 6th March All-age Communion* 11.00am

Children's Church is always available at the 11.00 am service at Morley and at Smalley on the first Sunday of the month.

AN ETHIOPIAN EPIPHANY

The Epiphany season, which started on 6th January, continues until Lent begins (much earlier than usual) on 10th February. It celebrates three epiphanies (or manifestations or appearances) of God in Jesus - the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus, the Baptism of Christ and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana.

In December I made my first visit to Ethiopia- a huge, high, crowded, fascinating, poor, beautiful, thirsty, ancient Christian nation. I discovered how our Ethiopian brothers and sisters in Christ have long celebrated Epiphany. The most important of the three Epiphany stories for them is the Baptism of Christ.

Every Ethiopian church has on its altar a tabot - a covered replica of the two Tablets of the Law, onto which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. On the eve of the feast the priest, in a colourful and noisy procession, takes the tabot out of his church (yes, all Ethiopian priests are men), and carries it above his head to a significant body of water, which may be many miles away; there he and his tabot and his congregation spend the night - a night of rituals rather than sleep. Early in the morning everyone renews their baptism vows - if there is enough water everybody bathes in it three times; if it is piped to pour onto people it is pumped through three pipes in three directions, representing the three persons of the Trinity; if there is little water then the priest sprinkles everybody with it three times. He also sticks four candles (representing the four evangelists) into dung to float them on the water, symbolising Noah's Ark from a much earlier water story.

Where does the wedding at Cana story fit into the occasion? That's also about water, of course; perhaps not surprisingly tradition holds that spending a long night singing and dancing to religious songs is an important opportunity for young adults to choose would-be lovers!

And the Wise Men story? The Ethiopians quote the last verse of the story - "having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road" - and they make sure that the tabot is returned to its church in a procession of umbrella-waving people which must take a different route to the one taken from the church the previous evening - "another road".

The Very Revd Geoffrey Marshall